Volume 6 Number 4 September 1995
The Lessons of the Holy Spirit - Part 2
Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.
Because of the ego's use of denial, it never occurs to us that there is something very wrong with the ego's plan of salvation; namely—it does not work. Designed to protect us from fear, the ego's plan merely reinforces it. This miserable state of affairs of not being able to confront the ego with its insane thought system and question its logic is summarized in the following passage:
The ego has no real answer to this because there is none, but it does have a typical solution. It obliterates the question from the mind's awareness. Once out of awareness the question can and does produce uneasiness, but it cannot be answered because it cannot be asked (T-4.V.4:9-11).
Denial thus serves to obliterate from our awareness 1) the Holy Spirit's Love, 2) the ego's thoughts of sin and hatred, and finally 3) the decision maker in our minds that can choose again.
Until this decision-making part can be restored to our awareness there is no hope, a state which the ego wishes always to maintain. Paradoxically, it is the very pain that the ego's thought system induces in us that becomes the cause of its ultimate undoing:
Tolerance for pain may be high, but is not without limit. Eventually everyone begins to recognize, however dimly, that there must be a better way (T-2.III.3:5-6).
Unable to justify a life of misery and suffering by blaming others, we are finally ready to ask for help from Someone other than our egos. As Jesus exhorts: "Resign now as your own teacher … for you were badly taught" (T-12.V.8:3; T-28.I.7:1). Inherent in this decision is our recognition that we want joy instead of pain, happiness instead of misery, and peace instead of war. And so because it is this peace that we want, it is this peace we wish to learn, the second lesson of the Holy Spirit: To have peace, teach peace to learn it. We have come to realize, finally, that Jesus was right and we were wrong. Moreover, we can gladly accept that we are far better off and happier when we choose his thought system of forgiveness and peace, rather than the ego's insane system of specialness and attack. As Jesus instructs us in this second lesson: "There can be no conflict between sanity and insanity. Only one is true, and therefore only one is real" (T-6.V-B.6:1-2). Therefore:
The way out of conflict between two opposing thought systems is clearly to choose one and relinquish the other. If you identify with your thought system, and you cannot escape this, and if you accept two thought systems which are in complete disagreement, peace of mind is impossible. If you teach both, which you will surely do as long as you accept both, you are teaching conflict and learning it. Yet you do want peace, or you would not have called upon the Voice for peace to help you. Its lesson is not insane; the conflict is (T-6.V-B.5).
What is required of us now is the vigilance that undoes the ego's vigilance, the meaning of the Holy Spirit's third lesson: Be vigilant only for God and His Kingdom. This vigilance translates into becoming aware of the ego's underlying purpose in maintaining an ongoing attitude of judgment and attack. In other words, through A Course in Miracles Jesus is asking us to invite his help in becoming aware of our ego's need to perpetuate and preserve its individuality by making someone else responsible for it. Looking at the ego's darkness with Jesus' light beside us is what allows us to see through—literally—the ego's smokescreen of sin, guilt, and fear to the truth of the Holy Spirit's Atonement, which undoes the thought of separation at its source. In an important passage from the text, Jesus explains this crucial principle:
No one can escape from illusions unless he looks at them, for not looking is the way they are protected. There is no need to shrink from illusions, for they cannot be dangerous. We are ready to look more closely at the ego's thought system because together we have the lamp that will dispel it, and since you realize you do not want it, you must be ready. Let us be very calm in doing this, for we are merely looking honestly for truth. The "dynamics" of the ego will be our lesson for a while, for we must look first at this to see beyond it, since you have made it real. We will undo this error quietly together, and then look beyond it to truth.
What is healing but the removal of all that stands in the way of knowledge? And how else can one dispel illusions except by looking at them directly, without protecting them? Be not afraid, therefore, for what you will be looking at is the source of fear, and you are beginning to learn that fear is not real (T-11.V.1:1-2:3; italics mine).
The word together is emphasized because the crucial variable here is our joining with Jesus in this process of vigilance. To look without him is to replicate the original "looking" at the tiny, mad idea with our egos, without the Holy Spirit, therefore remembering "not to laugh" (T-27.VIII.6:2). This point of doing things on our own without the Holy Spirit is highlighted in the concluding section of the manual for teachers:
There is another advantage,—and a very important one,—in referring decisions to the Holy Spirit with increasing frequency. Perhaps you have not thought of this aspect, but its centrality is obvious. To follow the Holy Spirit's guidance is to let yourself be absolved of guilt. It is the essence of the Atonement. It is the core of the curriculum. The imagined usurping of functions not your own is the basis of fear. The whole world you see reflects the illusion that you have done so, making fear inevitable. To return the function to the One to Whom it belongs is thus the escape from fear. And it is this that lets the memory of love return to you. Do not, then, think that following the Holy Spirit's guidance is necessary merely because of your own inadequacies. It is the way out of hell for you (M-29.3).
The need for our vigilance, and the enormous effort required for the undoing of the ego's thought system is summarized in the following passage from Jesus' discussion of the the Holy Spirit's third lesson:
The third step, then, is a statement of what you want to believe, and entails a willingness to relinquish everything else. The Holy Spirit will enable you to take this step, if you follow Him. Your vigilance is the sign that you want Him to guide you. Vigilance does require effort, but only until you learn that effort itself is unnecessary. You have exerted great effort to preserve what you made because it was not true. Therefore, you must now turn your effort against it. Only this can cancel out the need for effort, and call upon the being which you both have and are. This recognition is wholly without effort since it is already true and needs no protection. It is in the perfect safety of God. Therefore, inclusion is total and creation is without limit (T-6.V-C.10).
The good news about A Course in Miracles is that we no longer have to pretend that we are nice and loving people, who wish only to return with Jesus to our home in Heaven. If we were, then we never would have wished to leave God in the first place, and we certainly would not still be choosing to remain within our separated and individualized state. Quite to the contrary, Jesus' purpose in his Course is to help us to understand that we do indeed cherish our individuality, and are even willing to pay the heavy price of sin and murder in order to sustain it. By looking with him, however—without judgment or guilt—we realize that there is nothing in others or ourselves to forgive, for there is nothing there even to perceive, let alone condemn. As we continue now with the passage quoted from above:
You are also learning that its [fear's] effects can be dispelled merely by denying their reality. The next step is obviously to recognize that what has no effects does not exist. Laws do not operate in a vacuum, and what leads to nothing has not happened. If reality is recognized by its extension, what leads to nothing could not be real. Do not be afraid, then, to look upon fear, for it cannot be seen. Clarity undoes confusion by definition, and to look upon darkness through light must dispel it (T-11.V.2:4-9).
And so, when we look at our investment in maintaining the three ego principles, which support our specialness and individuality, we realize, as did the little boy in the fairy tale, that the ego-emperor truly has no clothes on. Its thought system of sin, guilt, and fear, suffering, hate, and death—all with seeming power over God—is nothing. Moreover, we realize that not only does the ego thought system have no power, but that there is, in fact, no ego at all. Only the Love of God is true, and therefore only the Love of God remains within our minds. Thus is the dream of a mad journey away from Heaven into the ego's world of individuality undone through this gentle vigilance, born of our joining with Jesus or the Holy Spirit. With Their Love beside us, we are brought back, safe and sound, to the home of Christ we never truly left. Paraphrasing the inspiring words of the text, we exclaim with great joy:
Now is the Holy Spirit's purpose done. For we have come! For we have come at last!